Cornelia Wynne's lifelong interest in cooking was inspired by growing up on a farm in the midwest where her family raised most of their food. After the death of her mother, she took over the household chores, raising and feeding the family. She raised eight children of her own, and in recent years ran a boarding house in New Jersey, famed for its robust American menu.
As I wrote in the introductory column, The American Pantry is about all of us, wherever we came from, however we got here, and the cooking traditions that came with us from our various ethnic backgrounds. It is also about who we are as a people, our defining traits of independence, resourcefulness, and a can-do spirit, characteristics that are reflected, I think, in the recipes themselves. Mike Swisher's unique Dutch family pie crust exemplifies this tradition, coming from a background of fruit farmers in Virginia. With a surplus of large, ripe juicy peaches, they naturally wanted to use them to great effect. What better way than between never-fail flaky pie crusts? Who, I wonder, first thought up the idea of making a paste of the dough and working it back into the rest of the ice-cold ingredients for sure success?
In this second installment I would like to introduce you to Kenneth Goodemoot, Jr. from Barton City in northern Michigan. Kenneth is married, with two sons in the armed forces, is a successful independent trucker, and a proud Chippewa.
My husband and I met Kenneth in, of all places, the Detroit airport, where he was waiting for a flight to Alabama to buy a truck. I had already noticed him, a striking figure with dark eyes and a swarthy complexion, a solid-looking man probably in his early forties, dressed in black jeans, boots, and a black Western hat, like someone out of a John Wayne movie, someone who I would want to have on my side. I didn't pay much attention to the conversation between him and my husband about hunting, but when I heard Mr. Goodemoot proclaim:
If it comes off the land, I know how to fix it. I've eaten turtles, rabbits, squirrels, deer, coons, possums, bobcat, and rattlesnakes,"
I knew I'd found a winner, another great contribution to the "American Pantry."
Ken Goodemoot's Venison Chili
Ken raises his own tomatoes as well as the medium-hot peppers for this dish, the seed for the peppers passed on to him from his father. When amounts aren't specified use your judgment.
Grind 2 quarts venison meat.
Cook together in a large saucepan: tomatoes, preferably fresh from the garden, medium-hot peppers, garlic powder, onions (all cut up, of course). Cook red kidney beans separately, then add to the saucepan. [If you're using dried beans, soak them overnight, cook until tender, drain. Note that 1 pound dried beans makes about 6 cups when cooked.] When everything is cooking nicely, say after a half an hour, add a quart of tomato juice and the ground venison. Cook for an hour or to taste.
Serve with thick rounds of freshly baked bread.
Next time: Chicken Fricassee and the frontier spirit.